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Wolmyoung

Wolmyoung scrap

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Author Bio 작가 소개

             Wolmyeongsa (月明師: 月明 is a Buddhist name and 師 is a honorific title which means “master” or “tutor”) was a writer of hyangga (native songs from the Silla dynasty (B.C. 57-935) into the early Goryeo dynasty written in hyangchal) during the time of King Gyeongdeok (r.742∼765) in the eighth-century. He was a Buddhist monk and member of the Hwarang (a society of elite warriors). His main pieces are Jemangmaega (祭亡妹歌 Requiem for the Dead Sister) and Dosolga (兜率歌 Song of Tusita Heaven). It was said that his piri (피리 pipe instrument) playing was so good that it stopped the moon in its orbit. Records about him are in Samgugyusa (三國遺史 Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms).

1. Life

             Master Wolmyeong was a hyangga writer who lived in the mid to late eighth century during the reign of Silla’s King Gyeongdeok. Because Wolmyeongsa Dosolga (月明師兜率歌 Song of Tusita Heaven by Master Wolmyeong) in Samgugyusa is the sole document to record his details, it is difficult to fully know who he was. However, what is clear is that he composed two hyangga and was a skilled piri player; he was a leader monk of Hwarang (國仙之徒 Gukseonjido), and his home was Sacheonwang Temple (四天王寺).

             Based on the short text examined above, Master Wolmyeong is largely considered to have been a writer, musician, Hwarang member, and Buddhist monk. [1] First, Master Wolmyeong was a writer. Master Wolmyeong wrote Jemangmaega, a song commemorating the death of his sister, and Dosolga, a song about ruling citizens peacefully. These two pieces show that he was a writer who tended towards the composition of lyrical and political-religious poems.

             Second, Master Wolmyeong was a musician. It was said that there was one moonlit night when Master Wolmyeong, a very skilled piri player, was playing his piri while walking on the large road by the front gate of Sacheonwang Temple when the moon stopped in its orbit. Thus, according to Samgugyusa, this road was called Wolmyeong-ri (月明里), and Master Wolmyeong’s name, indeed because of this, became known very well. Master Wolmyeong’s fame as a piri player, thus, makes him a performer - a sorcerer - who enjoyed art of great taste and a Buddhist priest who imparted edification for the masses.

             Third, Master Wolmyeong was a member of the Hwarang. Master Wolmyeong was a nangseung (郎僧 a Buddhist monk who was also a member of the Hwarang). This can be confirmed in a quote attributed to him, “I am not skilled in chanting beompae (梵唄 Buddhist chant). I know hyangga merely because I follow the national Hwarangdo.” It is inferred here that Master Wolmyeong, originally a Hwarang member, moved his affiliation to the Buddhist priesthood with the decline of Hwarang influence.

             Fourth, Master Wolmyeong was a Buddhist monk. Sacheonwang Temple, where Master Wolmyeong resided, was a Buddhist temple of national defense from which incantations were used to defeat Tang dynasty forces during the seventh century period of the war of three kingdoms unification. Considering the history of Sacheonwang Temple, it is inferred that Master Wolmyeong’s teacher Great Master Neungjun (能俊大師) as well as Master Wolmyeong were sorcerer monks for national defense. In addition, it is confirmed in the text of Jemangmaega and Dosolga that Wolmyeong practiced Maitreya and Amida Buddhist faiths.

2. Writing

             Master Wolmyeong’s main pieces are Jemangmaega and Dosolga. Jemangmaega is a 10-line hyangga. It is a piece heavily drenched in the lyricism of religiously sublimating with song the anguish of life’s meaninglessness as he personally experienced it in his sister’s death. It was said that in writing this hyangga and offering the ashes, a gust of wind blew in and paper bills, his travel expenses, were thrown westward. With such an exquisite literary expression, the words of Jemangmaega were seen as having magical effects.

             Next is the 4-line hyangga Dosolga. “Dosol” signifies Dosolcheon (兜率天), the Buddhist realm where Maitreya lives. This piece was composed by the request of the king in order to rid of the anomaly of two suns appearing in the sky. In considering that the reasoning of the period equated heaven’s order with earth’s order, it is accepted wisdom to interpret the two suns as both simply an extreme weather event and an ominous sign. This song was sung while performing Sanhwagongdeok (散花功德), a ceremony in which pious acts were praised by scattering flowers for Buddha. It used the coercive language of magic by which they waited for the song’s effects; and it was said that with the song, the calamity of the suns went away. [2]

             Dosolga divides into a first half, where the flowers are called, and a second half, where there is a command to usher Maitreya Bodhisattva over to the flowers. In lines 1-2, apostrophes are used to call the flowers. As things that warded off demons and welcomed Buddha, flowers were media that connected heaven and earth. Lines 3-4 are commands. “Mireuk” in “Mireukjwaju (彌勒座主)” signifies the future Buddha and “jwaju” who is the main entity of the ceremony. Ultimately, this song is a command for the flowers to usher in the entity to be worshipped in the Sanhwagongdeok ceremony, Maitreya. The grammar of the short song and command in four lines is terse, and thus, was effective for resolving the crisis.

             Master Wolmyeong was influential in the history of classical Korean literature in two ways. The first was his status as a lyric hyangga writer. His main work Jemangmaega, in which his sister’s death is a pressing metaphor, is a lyric poem of the highest order among hyangga, an honor it shares only with Changiparangga (讚耆婆郞歌 Ode to the Hwarang Gipa). The second was his status as an incantational hyangga writer. Master Wolmyeong, with Dosolga, was the successor of the incantational grammar and form of ancient Korean songs, Gujiga (龜旨歌 Song of the Turtle) and Haega (海歌 Song of the Sea). Further, with Master Chungdam (忠談師), who wrote Anminga (安民歌 Song of Statesmanship), Master Wolmyeong continued the tradition of political incantational hyangga writers, which had begun with Master Yungcheon (融天師) [4]

3. Reference

Kim, Wanjin, Hyangga Haedokbeob Yeongu (A Study on the Decoding of Hyangga), Seoul National University Publishing Council, 1980.
Pak, Nojun, Hyangga Yeoyo ui Yeoksa (History of Hyangga Yeoyo), Jisik Sanupsa, 2018.
Yang, Judong, Jeungjeong Goga Yeongu (Revised and Enlarged Study on Old Song), Ilchokak, 1965.
Lee, Imsu, Wolmyeong ui Sam gwa Yesul (The Life and Art of Master Wolmyeong), Gyeongju Culture Festival Organizing Committee, 2003.

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